Feb 26, 2014 6:46 PM EST
“I’m just as surprised as anyone else.”
- Anthony Bennett upon learning he was drafted number 1 overall
Quite frankly, it doesn’t seem that Bennett’s dazed reaction has subsided much given his lackluster play in his rookie campaign.
After posting an impressive 16.1 points with 8.1 rebounds in 27 minutes per game in his lone season at UNLV, Anthony Bennett led many to believe he could have a promising professional career. However, Bennett’s ineffectiveness in UNLV’s first round upset loss to the California Bears in last year's NCAA tournament has continued into the start of his NBA career.
Listed at 6’8” with a 7’1” wingspan and 240 pounds upon drafted, Bennett came into his rookie year unprepared for the NBA. Prior to the 2013 NBA Draft, Bennett underwent rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder that has proven to hinder his development this season. Because of his shoulder injury, Bennett was not able to participate in the Summer League and came into training camp at 260 pounds, 20 pounds over his draft day weight.
Having ample valuable experience time missed, compounded with not focusing on his conditioning coming into the season, Bennett was already a step behind his fellow draft peers in terms of development. At the start of the season, Bennett was not able to get on the court for many meaningful minutes due to his inability to run up and down the floor without suffering from his complications of asthma and sleep apnea.
However, having barely cracked the Cleveland Cavaliers' rotation until recently, Bennett is finally showing signs of life. He has been able to improve on his conditioning on the court, which has mustered more minutes from Mike Brown.
“I give the kid a lot of credit, he’s had a tough start, a really tough start," Brown said of Bennett, per Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Bennett’s two highest offensive usages on the court are what scouts had raved about. A quarter of Bennett’s offensive possessions, he uses his bread and butter spot-up shot for a putrid 0.59 PPP (points per play). Sixteen percent of the time, Bennett goes through his signature pop and pop role for a sordid 0.59 PPP per Synergy Sports. Over time with more experience, Bennett will improve on these low numbers when he becomes more confident in his own ability.
Bennett must learn to establish a post-up (8 percent) game, so it will allow him to become a more versatile offensive player. One of the major knocks on Bennett coming into the draft was his inability to shoot a jump hook when posting up. Often times at UNLV, his post-up moves would lead him to shoot a low percentage fade away shots rather than a simple jump hook.
In order for Bennett to get on the floor more consistently, he must improve his defensive awareness, the blueprint to the type of basketball Brown coaches. Scouts have always been very critical of Bennett with his lack of focus and hustle on the defensive end.
Kevin Love should be someone Bennett has on his speed dial to talk about how his workout and diet regime has allowed him to become a superstar. Like Bennett, Love came into the league overweight, but was able to trim his body weight to become a perennial All-Star.
Describing Bennett’s start to his career as a disappointment would be deemed an understatement. The undersized power forward is gradually starting to show flashes of the athletic talent that made him at least appear to be a strong lottery pick.
Feb 22, 2014 1:25 PM EST
Thursday at the NBA trade deadline, we saw a total of 26 players, seven second round draft picks, and zero blockbuster trades. On Friday, we covered how the 10 players that ended up on West teams will shape the playoff race, and now we are looking at the 16 that were sent to the D-League…whoops, I meant the Eastern Conference.
While the Western teams made a few smart, calculated trades to improve depth (Steve Blake to the Warriors) and cut costs (possible buyout for Jason Terry from the Kings), the East had the biggest deals of the deadline. The East deals included the only two All-Stars dealt (Antawn Jamison and Danny Granger), the two best players (Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes), and the smartest player (Professor Andre Miller, PhD).
The Brooklyn Nets traded their disappointing – but playoff tested – guard, Jason Terry, for the Sacramento Kings' disappointing – and never played in a playoff game – guard, Marcus Thorton. Thorton, who once averaged 21.3 points per game, is a solid sixth man and capable of scoring in bunches when needed though he has struggled badly this season. He will likely provide relief for Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson down the stretch of the season. However, adding his extra $730,000 in salary means paying a ridiculous $3.3 million in tax, bringing their total to over $88 million on taxes alone…for a team that won’t get out of the first round.
The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for 76ers' center, Spencer Hawes. He will likely anchor their team right to where they were destined to be before they traded for him…the lottery. Hawes is a talented 7-footer who leads all centers in three-pointers made and percentage, is an elite passer for his position, a good scorer and rebounder, and a capable body on defense when he cares. Forced to play on a hapless Philadelphia team, Hawes had no reason to try over the past few months, but as he heads into free agency this offseason, expect his production to go back up for the Cavs. Despite the addition of Hawes and recently acquired Luol Deng, this team is unfortunately still coached by Mike Brown, suggesting they are likely doomed to miss the playoffs and then ultimately lose Hawes and Deng to free agency for nothing.
Professor Andre Miller, PhD left his classroom for winter break on December 30th and has been M.I.A. ever since. However, after being traded to the Washington Wizards, you can rest assured Professor Miller will be making a teaching once again. Miller, who was restless under indecisive rookie head coach Brian Shaw will be a capable backup behind John Wall, likely helping lead this Wizards team to homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Charlotte Bobcats made a good deal at the trade deadline. Say it with me: “The Bobcats did something right.” They traded valuable but redundant point guard, Ramon Sessions to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Jeff Adrian for Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal. Ridnour is a terrific backup point guard who can play behind or with Kemba Walker, while Neal is an outstanding shooter who won an NBA Finals game last season by scoring 24 points in 25 minutes!
In the only move that might affect the NBA Finals this season, the Pacers trading former All-Star forward, Danny Granger to the 76ers for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. Turner is a do-it-all forward who has fallen out of favor league-wide because he has failed to live up to the hype of a second overall pick. Turner should play with the first unit as well as anchor the second for the Pacers. His ball handling will allow George Hill, Paul George and CJ Watson to get free and take uncontested shots while giving them insurance –albeit expensive at an $8.7 million qualifying offer or whatever long-term offer he receives – in case Lance Stephenson leaves in free agency. Additionally, Allen started in the playoffs only two seasons ago and is a capable big man off the bench. Most importantly, Larry “The Legend” Bird signed off on this trade, thus, it must be great.
The last set of trades involved the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks. Each team gave up players that weren’t part of their future and received cash, second round draft picks, and laundry service for a year in exchange for helping another team out. The Heat traded Roger Mason Jr. and cash for a pick they will likely never see in order to open a roster spot for Caron Butler (Tuff Juice wants to go home!). The 76ers, who were involved in a league-high four deals during the trade deadline ended up with five second round draft picks and five players that won’t be buying property in Philadelphia. Finally, the Hawks acquired Antawn Jamison from the Clippers and enough cash to take him out to a nice dinner before buying out his contract.
Compared to the four West teams that made a deadline deal, eight of the top ten Eastern franchises made a deal with only Chicago and Detroit remaining inactive. Whether this reflects the fragility of the Eastern Conference standings (5th place through 11th is separated by just 5.5 games), or the strength of the mighty teams in the West (3rd place in the East would be 10th in the West) is anyone’s guess. With that said, all these moves outside of Indiana and Miami are moot because none of them are making the Eastern Conference Finals.
Indiana Pacers Vs. Miami Heat, Round III starts May 20th – Get ready, America!
Jan 07, 2014 12:34 PM EST
When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded three future draft picks for Luol Deng, they went all-in on this season. The logic of a win-now move is mortgaging part of your future in order to maximize present gain -- for example, grabbing the final piece of a championship team. Cleveland has made four Top-4 draft picks in the last three years, yet they still have a 11-23 record and a -5.8 point differential. The Cavs are striving towards a first-round sweep.
The logic of the move is entirely backwards. Cleveland seems to think making the playoffs proves they are a legitimate NBA franchise. The reality is you can miss the playoffs and be a legit franchise and you can make the playoffs and not be one. What is far more important is building an organization that values the right things, maintains a long-term perspective and doesn’t get too caught up in the public relations game.
Not many teams get the chance to make two No. 1 and two No. 4 picks in three years. The Sacramento Kings have been on-and-off tanking for most of the past decade and they haven’t picked higher than No. 5 once. In a situation like that, when you have the pick of the litter of the best young basketball players in the world, a front office that knows what it’s doing can construct a title-contender. This is known as the “OKC model.”
The problem with the model isn’t that it rewards losing or encourages tanking. The problem is that a lot of NBA franchises don’t know how to evaluate young talent in the first place. Getting first choice from a pool of players doesn’t do much good if you don’t know what you should be looking for. If Sam Presti were making the picks instead of Chris Grant, the Cavs would already be a contender. It’s not that he’s a genius. His model just makes more sense.
When you look at the players Cleveland has drafted, there doesn’t seem to be an underlying logic to the way Grant is building the team. You have an extremely skilled but relatively unathletic 6’3 PG, a jack-of-all trades master of none 6’4 combo guard, a traditional 6’9 PF with two-way ability and a 6’8 small-ball PF who needs defensive protection. All four should have long NBA careers, but Grant appears to be throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.
The “Core Four” of Kyrie, Waiters, Thompson and Bennett is the exact wrong way you want to build a team through the draft. You have to select players whose games accentuate each other’s skills, instead of replicating them. Both Kyrie and Waiters like to hold the ball and neither is an elite athlete; Irving should be sharing a backcourt with a 6’6 slasher like Terrence Ross. Thompson and Bennett both need to play with a center, not each other.
With so many mismatched parts, the Cavs have just not been a cohesive team this season. When you play Irving and Waiters together, you are going to have weak perimeter D and not a lot of ball movement. Instead of making each other better, they are making each other worse. Cleveland still doesn’t have a center of the future, which is insane. Draft Jonas Valanciunas, Andre Drummond, Nerlens Noel or Alex Len and there would be more room for optimism.
As is, the addition of Deng gives the Cavs an unwieldy collection of parts. On one hand, six first-round picks - the Core Four plus Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev -- still trying to figure out their way in the league. On the other, a bunch of veteran players in their late 20’s -- guys like Deng, Anderson Varejao and Jarrett Jack -- who are ready to win now. It’s basically two different teams being awkwardly fused together and there is no guarantee that it works.
Given the dearth of good teams in the East, the Cavs have a decent shot of making the playoffs, if everyone stays healthy. Deng, at 28 and at the peak of his career, is obviously a huge upgrade at SF from Earl Clark, who is yet more proof that 3/4 combo forwards should be played as small-ball 4’s. Along with Anderson Varejao, Deng gives Cleveland two savvy frontcourt players who can make plays, move the ball and be cogs in a good offense.
However, there are still foundational problems with the way the roster is constructed. There isn’t much defensive talent -- none of their big men block shots and they have a lot of undersized, offensive-minded lead guards. Their wing players all have defensive ability, but that’s not enough if you don’t have the right big men behind them. Make Thompson and Varejao try to defend the Pacers or the Heat frontline and it will be a slaughter.
For Cleveland to have any chance of a competitive first-round series, they have to get all the way to No. 6, where they would likely face the Toronto Raptors at No. 3. People still don’t believe in the Raptors, but they are 10-4 since dealing Rudy Gay, with wins over the Thunder and the Pacers. Even though Masai Ujiri has not shown much indication that he really wants to win this season, the overall talent on his roster is making the decision for him.
When you break down the match-ups, things look bleak for Cleveland. At this stage in his career, Irving would not be able to dominate a defender like Kyle Lowry, while the 27-year-old Lowry would eat up his poor individual defense. Ross is too big and too fast for Waiters, much less Matthew Dellavedova. Deng might have an edge on the younger DeRozan, but Amir Johnson and Valanciunas are bigger, faster and just as skilled as the Cavs big men.
The Raptors may not have a “franchise player” like Irving, but they have a young core that fits well together and will grow into an elite team over the next few years. Jonas is 21, Ross is 22, DeRozan is 24 and Johnson is 26. They don’t have much chance of beating Indiana or Miami in a seven-game series next May, but they will learn valuable lessons about team defense and half-court execution. They remind me a lot of the Pacers in 2010 and 2011.
The Cavs, in contrast, will be just another poorly run Eastern team with a mix of young and middle-age players going nowhere. By the time their Top-4 picks are in their mid 20’s and ready to contend, Deng, Varejao and Jack will be on their way out of the league. When a win now mantra interferes with your long-term goals, something has gone wrong. Grant needs to add defense to his young core, not push them into the playoffs before they are ready.
All he is doing is setting up the fanbase for disappointment, as people inevitably turn on young stars when they can’t win in the playoffs. However, if Cleveland doesn’t win a lot of playoff games in the next five years, it shouldn’t say much about Irving. Losing LeBron James has taught the Cavs nothing. If you don’t run your franchise the right way, all the picks in the world won’t matter. That’s something everyone eyeing the 2014 draft should remember.
Dec 26, 2013
While the Cavaliers may lose a lot of games again this year, it is not for lack of trying, as they have paired their high draft selections with quality free agents in order to propel themselves toward the playoffs. They may not make it this year, but this team’s time is coming.
Nov 10, 2013
C.J. Miles is off to the best start of his career, averaging over 13 points and supplying Mike Brown with a potent shooter to surround Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack. The Cavaliers held an option on the final year of Miles’ deal this season, but exercising it was a formality and he’s cozied into playing part in the team’s core.
Oct 29, 2013
While there are no direct criteria, my non-national teams have to have entertainment value on a game to game basis and fascinating pieces in the form of young talent or new additions. Each of these squads fits that bill and there were a few tough omissions as well.
Oct 29, 2013
The following 30 questions are the biggest issues facing each NBA front office as the 13-14 regular season begins.
Oct 26, 2013
The Pelicans, Raptors, Pistons, Wolves, Cavaliers, Blazers, Wizards, Mavericks, and maybe even the Kings and Bobcats could find their way into the playoffs if a number of things go right.
Oct 21, 2013
In an NBA so rich with talent and intriguing storylines, how can you limit yourself to just one team? These five squads deserve second billing in your hearts and remote-holding hands.
Oct 17, 2013
This season should provide the Cavaliers with plenty of opportunities to analyze the talent they have on roster, which will be necessary since they will need to make some tough calls if they want to preserve enough cap space to sign LeBron James outright.
Aug 16, 2013
Great drafts for the Rockets, 76ers, Nets, Warriors, Hawks and Grizzlies headline this complete rundown of the 2013 offseason.
Jul 01, 2013
With the 2013 NBA offseason underway, here is a primer on what all 30 teams are facing.
Jun 28, 2013
Breaking down all 30 teams by category of how they fared in the often surprising, never disappointing 2013 NBA Draft.
May 22, 2013
The luck of the lottery, combined with the Cavaliers' young talent has made the ending with James easier to move on from. These days, the disappointment of that situation is a memory more than a motivating factor for Cleveland.
May 20, 2013
One fun component of the Amnesty rule is that we know exactly which players are eligible for it and that number can only decrease over time since the players had to have been under contract with the same team before the new CBA.
May 19, 2013
We have seen a whole lot of changes since the pre-Tournament issue of the Lottery Lowdown. March Madness gave us a few players to watch both this year and for 2014 while the Nike Hoop Summit and Combine helped clarify the picture in terms of athletic ability and positional versatility.
Feb 21, 2013
The Kings, Knicks, Rockets, Thunder and Cavaliers have been the most active teams at the deadline over the past decade, while the Spurs, Pistons, Heat, Lakers and Pacers have made the fewest deals.
Nov 05, 2012
The Cavaliers entered the season as a perceived playoff contender, but its reliance on Kyrie Irving seems substantial. Soon, losing will be tougher to swallow for these Cavaliers and this superstar. But for now, they’re satisfied trying to improve on a daily basis, focusing on supporting Irving offensively.
Nov 01, 2012
While the drop-off from the Heat to the rest of the Eastern Conference is severe, the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder have quick company in the second and third tiers.
Aug 19, 2012
The Nuggets, Lakers, Heat, 76ers and Nets were amongst the teams with great offseasons, while the Bucks, Magic, Suns, Knicks, Cavaliers and Bulls were in the bad column. Here's how all 30 teams have fared in the 2012 offseason.
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